Seasonal AffectiveDisorder (SAD) is an acute depression that most commonly occurs during the late Fall/Winter months as the days become shorter with less sunlight. Serotonin, one of the feel good chemicals in the brain drops when there’s less sunlight because serotonin is used in the brain to produce melatonin the chemical that makes you sleepy therefore levels of serotonin drop. SAD is thought to be a form of major depression and has similar symptoms such as loss of energy, change in appetite, tendency to oversleep, difficulty concentrating, irritability, lack of motivation, and feelings of hopelessness.
If you notice these symptoms occurring during this time of year you may be experiencing SAD. Here are some natural ways to increase your serotonin level and alleviate depression.
Get Social Support – share how you feel with trusted family and friends, show up for a social activity, email or phone someone, join a support group, book club, or take a class in something of interest where you will meet like minded people. Being with and around other people helps alleviate feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Exercise – I know when you feel low you probably don’t have the energy or motivation to exercise, but it doesn’t have to be a hard core time consuming routine. Simply making a commitment to walk around the block once a day can make a big difference in uplifting your energy and mood. Getting outside even if it’s cold and wet will invigorate and stimulate your senses. I recommend walking where you can see, hear, smell, and feel the natural environment. This can be a spiritual experience which uplifts and connects you with the Divine that dwells in all life.
Sleep - Try to normalize your sleep pattern by going to bed and getting up around the same time. This is very important for one’s physical and mental well-being. If you have trouble falling asleep or wake up multiple times in the night try an herbal sleep remedy like valerian, passion flower, hops or a combination of these herbs before bedtime. Create a bedtime ritual that tells your body/mind it’s time to wind down and go to sleep, and be sure to get up at the same time in the morning. If you do this for thirty days straight you will develop a positive habit and will feel better through out the day.
Healthy Diet – The foods and drinks we consume have a profound effect on our health and mental state. Start to notice how your body and mind feel after eating and drinking certain things. You might feel energized by sugar and caffeine at first but then comes the crash and you’re even more tired and irritable. Eat a whole foods diet that includes complex carbs, vitamin B, chromium, and omega 3 fatty acids (salmon,nuts, flax oil, etc.), and cut out refined sugars and excessive caffeine.
Self HelpTools - Do things that reduce stress and nurture your spirit such as: getting out in nature, listening to your favorite music, dancing, journaling, getting a message, taking a aromatherapy bath, watching a funny movie, playing with a pet, and working with your favorite yoga DVD. These can all be ways to increase your serotonin and uplift your mood.
Positive Self Talk – Talk nicely and encouraging to yourself. Notice when your inner critic is beating you up with negative self-talk and tell that part of your brain to knock it off. Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts, visualizations, affirmations, and prayers. This will help create a sense of calm and upliftment and change negative thinking patterns.
Counseling - If you can’t apply these strategies on your own get help from a professional counselor who can support and guide you.